Environmental indicators simplify, quantify and communicate complex environmental data, and in doing so tell us about the state or quality of the environment. They allow us to monitor environmental trends and track progress towards stated objectives and policy goals. Indicators can be used to:
The national environmental reporting programme is using a core set of environmental indicators to provide cost-effective, practical and meaningful information on high-priority issues for the environment.
Because we cannot continuously measure and report on every aspect of the environment, we rely on indicators which, combined, give us a picture of the environment’s overall health. This is common practice in New Zealand and overseas.
New Zealand’s national environmental reporting programme has 22 core environmental indicators, which are reported using 66 national datasets. Each indicator focuses on a high-priority issue in one of ten domains such as air quality, waste, fresh water, land, indigenous biodiversity, amongst other vital aspects indicating our environment’s health.
The frequency of reporting for each indicator varies depending on data availability and also reflects, where possible, the policy priorities of the Ministry.
The core set of national environmental indicators adhere to the principles of Statistics New Zealand’s Good Practice Guidelines for the Development and Reporting of Indicators.
The 22 national environmental indicators align well with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD’s) environmental indicators. Sixty-four per cent of New Zealand’s core environmental indicators are identical or very similar to OECD’s indicators.
While the primary focus of the national environmental reporting programme must be to provide up-to-date and timely information on the core set of indicators, other supplementary information will also be reported, as appropriate, to ensure a more complete national picture can be built. This includes technical reports and surveys on particular aspects of the environment.
The environmental indicators and the Environment New Zealand 2007 report complement regional and local state of environment reporting by local government. Visit your local or regional council’s website to find out what indicators are monitored and reported in your area.
The core set of national environmental indicators specifically excludes social, economic and heritage indicators and sustainable development indicators as they are included in national programmes run by other central government agencies, such as:
Ongoing reporting of the environmental indicators by the Ministry for the Environment will complement these programmes.
Reporting on culturally-based environmental indicators will be re-assessed when data with a wide geographic spread is available. Until such time, case studies will continue to be used to report on culturally-based environmental monitoring.